Machine de Marly

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Il ne paroît pas que l'on ait jamais exécuté de machine qui ait fait autant de bruit dans le monde que celle de Marly...
It does not seem that one has ever completed a machine that has made as much noise in world as that of Marly...
Bernard Belidor, 1737.[1]:195

La Machine de Marly by Pierre-Denis Martin, 1723.
The Machine de Marly on the Seine and the Louveciennes hillside. In the background, to the right, the aqueduc de Louveciennes(fr) to which the water was pumped by the Machine
The 1859 machine de Marly painted circa 1873 by Alfred Sisley

The machine de Marly, also widely known as the Marly machine and the machine of Marly, was a French engineering marvel completed in 1684. King Louis XIV needed a large water supply for his fountains at Versailles and the gardens of the château de Marly(fr). The amount of water needed per day for these fountains was about equivalent to the water used per day in the city of Paris.

The machine de Marly, based on a prototype at Modave Castle, consisted of fourteen gigantic water wheels, each roughly 11.5 meters or 38 feet in diameter,[2] that powered more than 250 pumps to bring water 177 yards (162 m) up a hillside from the Seine River to the Louveciennes Aqueduct. King Louis XIV had countless schemes and inventions that were supposed to bring water to his fountains. The machine de Marly was by far his most extensive and costly plan. After three years of construction and a cost of approximately 5,500,000 livres, the massive contraption, considered the most complex of the 17th century, was completed. "The chief engineer for the project was Arnold de Ville and the 'contractor' was Rennequin Sualem (after whom the quai by the machine is now named).",[2] both having experience in pumping water from coal mines in the region of Liège (in modern Belgium).[3]

The machine suffered from frequent breakdowns, required a permanent staff of sixty to maintain, and often required costly repairs, but worked 133 years. Destroyed in 1817, it was replaced by a "machine temporaire" during 10 years and then a steam engine entered in service from 1827 to 1859. From 1859 to 1963, the pumping at Marly was assumed by another hydraulic machine conceived by engineer Dufrayer (The Dufrayer's machine was scrapped in 1968 and replaced by electromechanical pumps).


The Machine de Marly site is located 7 km (4.4 mi) north of the chateau de Versailles and 16.3 km (10.2 mi) west of the center of Paris, on the Seine in the Yvelines department. The river pumps and Administration buildings are in the town of Bougival; relay pumps, machinery, the aqueduct and reservoirs are located in Louveciennes,. One reservoir is in the town of Marly-le-Roi.

Between Port-Marly and Bezons, the Seine, along its length, was divided into two arms by a series of islands and earth berms linked together by timber / rock dikes to form two disconnected, parallel river beds over ten kilometers in length. Across from the left arm of the river, a little below the small village of la Chausée, downstream of Bougival, the hydraulic pumping machinery was constructed, propelling the river water to the top of the hill that borders the Seine. [4]:95
A dam at Bezons on the right arm creates a hydraulic head measuring 3.1 meters (10 feet 2 inches) high to power the wheels of the Machine de Marly.[4]:101
The upper pumping relay station (demolished) was located next chateau des Eaux (1700) and pumped water to the top of the Louveciennes aqueduct, which fed the Louveciennes and Marly reservoirs, near the site of the chateau de Marly (demolished).

An engraving of the Paris Observatory in the beginning of the eighteenth century with the wooden "Marly tower" on the right, a dismantled part of the machine de Marly (the temporary tower replaced by La tour du Levant at the beginning of the Aqueduc de Louveciennes), moved to the Paris Observatory by astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini for mounting long telescopes.[4]:124

Some remnants of the Dufrayer's machine are still visible today, but nothing remains of the original 17th century masterpiece built by the Sualem brothers, de Ville and Louis XIV .

Coordinates: 48°52′16″N 2°7′29″E / 48.87111°N 2.12472°E / 48.87111; 2.12472


  1. ^ Bernard Forest de Belidor[1697-1761] (1782). Architecture Hydraulique, ou L'art de conduire, d'élever et de ménager les eaux pour les différens besoins de la vie, Tome Second (in French). Paris: L. Cellot. 
  2. ^ a b La machine de Marly
  3. ^ Bruno Demoulin and Jean-Louis Kupper, Histoire de la Wallonie, Privat, Toulouse, 2004, p. 199 ISBN 2-7089-4779-6
  4. ^ a b c Barbet, Louis-Alexandre (1907). Les Grandes Eaux de Versailles: installations mécaniques et étangs artificiels: description des fontaines et de leurs origines (in French). H. Dunod et E. Pinat Editeurs.